By Charlie Boothe
September 14, 2017 - The 22nd biennial Bluefield Coal Show at the Brushfork Armory officially kicked off Wednesday morning, welcoming 195 exhibitors to the “coal show for coal people” and celebrating optimism amid a renewed growth in the market.
“We have worked to make it a good show every year of the show,” said Charlie Peters, who has been general chairman of the show since its start in 1976.
Peters spoke at the traditional Media Appreciation Breakfast.
“The coal show is meant for professionals in the industry to meet other professions and discuss what is going on,” he said. “It’s a way to get the message out to everyone so they can understand what is happening in the industry.”
Bill Reid, publisher of Coal News Inc. and the online industry website Coal Zoom, said the latest statistics show coal, at 30 percent, is ahead of natural gas, at 29 percent, as the “largest fuel source on the grid.”
“That’s wonderful for all of us and let’s be happy about that,” he said.
The guest speaker was Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association.
Quinn said policies changes that came with a new administration in Washington have helped.
Natural gas has not been the “sole driver” of the downturn, he said, but benefited from policies that punished coal but subsidized renewable energy sources.
But all of the excessive regulations are now being reviewed and that has allowed optimism in the industry and the market place, he added.
“Coal is rebounding,” he said, citing statistics that show an increase in the tonnage being produced and shipped overseas and overall production. “It (the new regulatory environment) is providing some much needed stability that would have remained out of reach without some changes in Washington.”
Quinn said the nation should pursue a “balanced policy that preserves national optionals” with energy.
“Keeping coal on the (energy) grid makes more sense than keeping it under the ground,” he said, adding that it’s a matter of “bringing common sense and common benefits to all consumers.”
As both state and federal governments are now reviewing how things are done, the industry should do the same, he said. “We need to look inward and focus on what we can control, what we do control, to make it more competitive.”
“Tough times bring game-changing innovations in productivity and supply chains,” he said. “It’s about delivery costs, the logistics of the transportation segment ... How we can offer better service and competitive prices should be our goal.”
After the ribbon-cutting, Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said it’s a “great show.”
It is also appropriate that the show is held in the heart of coal country with a 150-year tradition, he added.
“We have the best coal miners in the world,” he said. “Bluefield is the heartbeat of the Appalachian coal industry.”
Wortsmith with Laser Tools Inc. of Little Rock, Ark., said he as been to several shows, but this was the first time as an exhibitor.
“I was here in 2015 and it (the atmosphere of the show) was negative,” he said. “But this year is a different environment, much more positive.”
Wortsmith said the optimism has been created by results, and he has seen an increase in business for his company, which is the only one that makes laser tools for underground mining.
“We have sold more in the last year than we did the two years before that,” he said.